Metro Bank opens its doors

Metro Bank

Metro Bank - the first new UK high street bank to open in over 100 years – has finally opened for business.

The flagship branch in Holborn opened today amid much fanfare: as well as a band playing, there were women on stilts and free pastries and apples for passersby.

Customers queued outside the bank from 6.30am until 8am when the hoardings finally came down and the general public could go into the branch for the first time.

Branches will be open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm giving customers greater flexibility and customers can open a debit card account in as little as 15 minutes, according to the bank, and receive their debit card on the spot.

There are other plus points too including lollipops, and dog bowls and biscuits are available for pet owners. There’s a free coin counting machine and customer toilets – all in an effort to show Metro Bank want to welcome people in and offer a friendly relaxed service.

Beneath all the gloss and opening day excitement though, critics are wary of Metro Bank’s ability to offer anything substantially different – or better to the consumer.

Co–founder and chairman Anthony Thomson concedes that consumers won’t find headline interest rates, but he does promise a customer–friendly experience and believes this is what consumers want the most: “We plan to offer our customers a great retail experience, and we want to make banking fun for everyone.”

Co–founder and vice chairman Vernon Hill has experience of launching a new bank, having opened the first branch of Commerce Bancorp in 1973 in the US. He echoes Thomson’s sentiments: “Our focus will always be the customers, both retail and business, and making sure we do the right thing by them. The British public deserves a better banking experience, and Metro Bank intends to give it to them, where, when and however they choose”.

Another branch will open in Earls Court, London later this month, followed by another two later this year at Fulham Broadway and Borehamwood. The bank’s long term plans are ambitious: it wants to open 200 stores in the M25 area within the next ten years and already has specific stores scheduled in until 2012.

Metro Bank got its FSA licence in March and is covered under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. But the big question is, after all the hype dies down, will Metro Bank manage to deliver on its promises of offering fantastic customer service and be a bank that consumers feel they can trust.

While the majority of us would be happy to switch, 31% of us are worried that the new banks don’t have enough experience and 11% even say they worry their money wouldn’t be safe, according to a uSwitch survey.

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